The Darks' first Streng home was built on the American River in Sacramento. Eight years later the Darks moved to Woodland and essentially brought the house with them by having the Strengs recreate it, Loretta says, "except I did all the things right that bothered me about the first one." It was the first Streng home in Woodland, and is not part of a Streng subdivision. Several small Streng neighborhoods were later built in town.
Loretta remembers how they created the garden of their Woodland home, a rich tapestry of dry river, a fish pond, winding walkways, flower gardens, trellised dining and sitting areas, granite Japanese lanterns, wooden bridges, Buddhas, mugo pines, heavenly bamboo and elephant ears, and well-tuned tubular bells. "Larry came and took a stick and said you should have a pond right through here, a dry pond. My dad and I, we got the shovels and dug it out."
One of the garden's treasures looks like an authentic Asian bell. It actually comes from the old Nut Tree, once a popular restaurant on Interstate 80. "I always wanted that bell. They would never sell it because it was always part of their décor," Loretta says. When the Nut Tree went out of business, she says, "I was there to get that bell. It has the most beautiful sound."
John Dark, a marketing manager, believes his love of fine design may be genetic. He mentions a great-grandmother who was so fanatic about her lawn that she'd clip rough spots with scissors. But, he says, "Growing up in a Streng home is one of the reasons I wanted an Eichler." In 2000, Dark and his wife Stephanie spent four months searching for an Eichler home in the East Bay, knocking on owners' doors and even printing up an 'Eichler wanted' poster before finding their three-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot home in Rancho San Miguel—with the help of the realtors' Multiple Listing Service.
The 1959 home (architects Jones & Emmons plan 943) has a flat roof, a courtyard garden, and a zigzag overhang over the entry. The floor plan is intact and the garden is large, but the 1980s kitchen remodel has got to go, Dark vows. Both John and Stephanie work, and the kids keep them busy, so the home hasn't achieved its ultimate Darkian effect.
But John has put in a dry pond overlooked by a Japanese lantern and by a water sprite sculpted by the home's former owner. There are Buddhas beneath trees, and his uncle's paintings can be found throughout. None of the improvements will ever overshadow the home's architectural integrity, however. "We hope to restore this house to its original look and feel," John says. "I believe in restoration more than remodeling."
All photos by David Toerge